Cyprus Mail

Archbishop threatened antiquities head over church land

Archbishop Chrysostomos

Archbishop Chrysostomos on Friday admitted to having threatened antiquities department acting head Marina Solomidou-Ieronymidou after she refused to revoke the designation of a plot of church-owned land in Yeroskipou, which he plans to lease out to an investor to build a luxury resort, as an archaeological site.

Speaking to state TV on Friday, Chrysostomos recounted how he asked Ieronymidou to remove the classification so that the investor could obtain the permit to go ahead, after realizing that the department had slapped the classification on the plot without his explicit consent, as the law requires.

“She told us ‘I won’t sign’,” the Archbishop said.

“I got angry and replied ‘if you don’t sign, nothing will be left standing’. I threatened her. I wanted to point out that if everyone does whatever they like, bad things will happen.”

Chrysostomos had been asked to comment on a cabinet decision to overrule the antiquities department and revoke the designation on advice from the attorney-general’s office, which prompted public outcry as it suggested collusion between the government and the Archbishop.

“This is not the first time we have been accused,” the Archbishop said.

“These are lies that have been said a thousand times before. All the sites and Facebook are full of accusations that we engaged in [political] contraband, that we pledged to support the president in next year’s elections; these are nothing more than lies.”

The truth, he said, is that when Ieronymidou came to us to say that some ceramics were found in the church’s plot, we consented to her request to dig for antiquities.

“But when the time came for the construction permit to be issued, we found that the title deed said that our plot had been designated a class B archaeological site. But we were never asked, and that’s where they broke the law.”

The government then stepped in and annulled the department’s decision, and the permit should be issued in the coming days, the Archbishop added.

“[The investor] will start digging in the coming days and the Antiquities Department will be present during the digging,” he said.

“We hope antiquities are found, and we will respect and utilize them appropriately.”

Speaking later on the same TV show, Ieronymidou did not refer to the threat incident but welcomed the Archbishop’s pledge to respect the antiquities.

“We are satisfied with this pledge,” she said.

“The plot was classified a class B site in 2014, and we didn’t notify the owners because this classification does not impede the plot’s development. However, the attorney-general’s opinion was very clear, and we had to comply.”

In any case, Ieronymidou said, “I can unequivocally state that the antiquities will be protected”.

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